Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles that chart the journey from my first attempt at a short story, to developing my skills, writing a novel, signing with a literary agent and getting a two-book deal with HarperCollins’ HQ Stories.

I have wanted to write a novel since I was a child – a child who not always just had my nose in a book, but my whole being! A new book was the highlight of my week because I knew the value of being whisked away to other worlds at the turn of a page.

I spent my childhood writing Narnia-esque stories in Happy Shopper notebooks – then my teenage years and busy adult life pushed my dreams to the back of my mind.

Occasionally, I would say things like:
‘I’d just like to write a novel – I don’t mind if it gets published or not,’ (and other lies I told myself!)

Then circumstances in my life changed drastically. I gave up my career as a midwife to care for my husband who was having an a crisis with his chronic mental health conditions. In order to deal with the sudden loss of self-identity, I turned to writing.

Writing welcomed me back, dusted me down and taught me some lessons. I wrote some short stories and ramped up my reading.

One day, my husband said to me: ‘I have a good feeling about this writing thing – it makes you happy. What’s to stop you from taking it further?’

I looked into courses and found a distance learning MA in creative writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. After applying and accepting a place, I read every novel and every writing craft book I could fit into each day. The support and guidance I was given on the course was invaluable and I would highly recommend this route to anyone looking to take their writing to the next level.

I do know that academic study isn’t everyone’s cup of frapachino. There are many practical reasons why this may not be possible for everyone – but there are local writing groups (both face to face and online) and a whole load of peer support for writers in the Twitter and Facebook communities. I owe so much to my twitter pals in the writing community, as daily interactions with them has taught me so much about the writing process (look out for my future post: ‘Joining Writing-Twitter: How to Get Started and Grow Your Community.’)

In the mean time – here are some excellent writing craft books that have helped me to develop my storytelling skills and process:

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Into the Woods by John Yorke
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Other upcoming posts:

Part 2: Brewing a Novel (And Draining The Dregs.)

Part 3: Finding an Agent (And Getting THAT Call!)

Part 4: Being on Submission (And Pressing Refresh!)

Part 5: Getting that Publishing Deal (And Believing it’s True.)

Published by Jessica Ryn

Jessica Ryn is the author of 'The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside,' published May 2020 with HarperCollins imprint: HQ Stories. Her writing is represented by literary agent: Sarah Hornsley from The Bent Agency. Jessica is a creative writing MA student at Canterbury Christ Church University. She is a former midwife and resettlement worker for homeless adults. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and high-spirited springer spaniel.

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